By JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ
HIGHLAND PARK — Vegan Cuban food has hit the streets of Highland Park. The typically meat-heavy cuisine got a veggie twist thanks to certified vegan-chef Evanice Holz.
She sells her Pastel de Carne (No-Meat Pie), Pastelito de Guayaba y Queso (guava and vegan cream cheese strudel) and Arroz sin Pollo (rice without chicken) and other vegan versions of Cuban staples at her pop-up stand called Señoreata – in front of Block Party pub on York Boulevard.
A newbie to the business, Holz started selling her food about three months ago.
“I thought to myself, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do it. What am I waiting for? I CAN do this!’” said Holz. “I was so done waiting until I became less busy, saved enough money, or felt ready.”
The 29-year-old Silver Lake resident hit the internet, researching how to start a business and food pop-up and secure permits and the use of a commercial kitchen. She also looked into purchasing equipment and designing a menu, logo, and flyers.
Vegan Cuban Food Taste Test
Once I found out about Señoreata, my curiosity piqued. My parents are Cuban and growing up in the Miami – the Cuban food mecca outside of Cuba – I had to try it.
I ordered the Pastel de Carne (No-Meat Pie) pie and the Arroz sin Pollo (Holz uses cauliflower as a chicken substitute and beefless crumbles made from soybeans for the meat pie). I was really impressed. I couldn’t tell that the “meat” pie was vegan; it tasted like the ones I enjoyed growing up. The pastry was nice and flaky. It also sweetened with simple syrup, instead of sugar, giving the same sweet hint of a traditional pie.
The soy filling with bell peppers, raisins, and olives was just like the Cuban classic picadillo. I believe if someone didn’t know it was vegan, they probably wouldn’t notice.
The Arroz sin Pollo was just like my grandma’s. Same combination of saffron, turmeric, roasted peppers and olives immersed in a fluffy, warm bed of rice. Every bite felt like home to me.
Holz’s inspiration comes from her roots. All the recipes are from her childhood, passed down from her grandmother to her father – both are from Havana.
“When I made the switch to a plant based diet, everything was new, full of life, and interesting,” said Holz. “It was then that I started to “veganize” the Cuban food I grew up eating, like Picadillo and Arroz Con Pollo. The best part about it all was how the easy that was to do.”
She found her location after reaching out to Block Party via Instagram. The owner and general manager tasted her food on a Friday; the following Tuesday she hosted her first pop-up.
Since then, Señoreata has received very positive feedback from her clientele.
“It makes my night when an omnivore customer asks me if I’m sure there’s no animal meat in the food or when they say it tastes better than the animal version. I get that a lot of that with the Pulled ‘Pork’ Sofrito Tamales,” she said.
“My customers’ reactions are worth everything, as my goal isn’t to make good vegan Cuban food; it’s to make great authentic Cuban food, period.”
You can find Señoreata every Tuesday night from 5:30 p.m. -10 p.m. and some Friday nights (follow her Instagram @Senoreata for the latest info) at 5052 York Blvd.
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